Stealing for Jesus

Money ManThere are few, if any, Christian churches or organizations I would give money to these days — I’ve been involved in a number of them, and I saw how the money gets spent. It’s amazing how much money people make and spend doing “the good Lord’s work.”

And then there’s fraud. For example, a pastor and his three sons are facing charges for preying on church members:

Former pastor Vaughn Reeves and his sons, Chip, Chris and Josh face 10 separate felony counts.

The Reeves operated Alanar, Inc. an investment company in Sullivan, Ind. The four allegedly ran a multi-million dollar, faith-based affinity fraud for at least five years that duped thousands of investors into buying bonds that raised at least $120 million.

The Reeves allegedly stole $6 million for themselves in the process.

When I was a Christian, I wanted to only do business with other Christians, because I knew they were “trustworthy.” Looking back, it’s hard to believe I thought that, even after seeing that Christians could be just as untrustworthy as non-Christians. Oh that’s right, I just labeled them as “non-Christians” when I found out they weren’t trustworthy. Sigh.

Unfortunately, I think many evangelical Christians end up being targets for manipulation. Many are very suggestible — that is, after all, how they got into their religion (if they were converts).

The problem is compounded by the teaching that they should be giving at least 10% of their income to their church and other Christian organizations. Some teach the more you give, the more you receive and will be blessed by God.

The solution, of course, is basic critical thinking. But you won’t find a class on that at most churches — if they teach that, they’ll lose members, because some will figure out how to apply it to their own faith.

So I guess they’ll just keep them as helpless sheep, blindly following their “God-appointed” shepherd.

  • http://www.thehumanaught.com/blog Ryan

    Sad. Scary. True. Good post Daniel.

  • Francesc

    Off-topic
    Daniel, could you do a post -or maybe vorjack- about “free will” in OT and NT?
    It’s already been done?

    Thanks!

    • Daniel Florien

      Now there’s a sticky topic. Anything specific you’re looking for? There are a number of conflicting teachings on it, which is why there are Calvinists and Arminians — that is, those who believe everything is predestined and those who believe we have free will and are not predestined.

      • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

        Process theology and open theism would have to get thrown in as well, methinks.

    • wintermute

      I’d vote for Elemenope to write that one.

      • LRA

        Oh! I second that!

        • Elemenope

          I’m game, but it is a *large* topic, as Daniel and brgulker mentioned. It might take me a good while to pull together a decent survey of the many, many views that exist on the subject.

          • Len

            Do you really have a choice or is it pre-destined?

            • Elemenope

              LOL.

          • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

            Elemenope,

            I know you have a very good commanding of Philosophy, but I’ve never heard you weigh in on Scripture conversations here. Do you have a pretty good knowledge of bible as well?

    • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

      Daniel mentioned that there are conflicting teachings, which is why I would say the topic would have to be more nuanced than simply, “about “free will” in OT and NT?”

      In my opinion, it would have to be something like, “Differences in perspectives on Free Will in the OT/NT” or something like that.

      • Francesc

        yeah, that was pretty much the idea I had, beginning with the passages about free will in th bible and the scholarships intrpretation… I know it’s a large topic, of course you can focus in any aspect you want, and I can wait :-)

  • http://foreverinhell.blogspot.com Personal Failure

    I see this all the time on Christian message boards: only do business with Christians. Oddly, they get rather bent out of shape when they hear about Muslims only doing business with other Muslims.

    • Mogg

      Even though I grew up going to church, I didn’t realise how deeply this ran until not long before I left my creepy cult church. I got told off by a church elder for calling a local plumber with a 24 hour emergency service when I had a major plumbing problem on a weekend, rather than calling the church. Why I should have called the church about plumbing was not made clear at the time – perhaps because I was laughing so hard.

      • claidheamh mor

        Someone with your online username is posting posts with cutesy dog gimmicks on the christian-hijacked Ray Bradbury board.
        I’m pretty good at taking a stand, but it’s too hijacked for me to feel up to taking them on alone.

    • cello

      It can be useful to hold up prejudices within one faith community as a mirror to the other.

  • Siberia

    This is so, so common over here.

    Y’see, Brazil is an extremely religious country – even though we’re pretty laissez-faire about it all, the vast majority is of Christians of one kind or another, as well as some lesser religions. In any case, it’s hard to find someone without a religion.

    Recently there has been an evangelical revival – to supplant the Catholicism, I suppose. People started flocking to evangelical Christian churches – so much that it’s become almost a business. There are churches literally springing everywhere, under the most diverse names under the sun – and many (if not most) of those are opportunistic. There’s been an upsurge of televangelism.

    My mother – very Christian – used to watch this guy, she liked him, gave money to him (not much, but some) and he always sent a magazine, sometimes a CD. Somehow that guy spanned from one TV show to three, has started his own cable TV company and channels and is creating a cinema studio. He publishes and sells his own books and CDs as well. He has a recording studio. All to do “god’s work”. Oh – and no charity, no sir.

    Another guy was filmed in his yatch (bought with church money) in Miami. He was more blatant; he was known to tell people to sell everything – car, apartments, jewelry – and give it to the church, that God would return it twice more. Another couple was arrested trying to leave the country with millions of dollars (evading taxes, naturally) in their luggage.

    People still support and give money to those guys.

    Where there’s a sucker there’s a con, I suppose.

  • nomad

    “The problem is compounded by the teaching that they should be giving at least 10% of their income to their church and other Christian organizations. Some teach the more you give, the more you receive and will be blessed by God.”

    I was wondering: Do the preachers have to tithe? Take the example of Creflo Dollar, receiving millions in tithes from his flock. Does he have to tithe on this enormous income? Who would he tithe it to? If Holyfield, his biggest donor went broke, as seems to be happening, would Creflo come to his aid? More importantly, how can I convince Creflo to send me 10% of his income? Dollar! What an appropriate name for a prosperity preacher.

    • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

      I was wondering: Do the preachers have to tithe?

      I can’t speak for Creflo, but yes, preachers who preach tithing usually tithe. They tithe back into the church.

      Dollar! What an appropriate name for a prosperity preacher.

      The irony is funny, isn’t it? I always get a chuckle when I hear/see his name.

      There is, however, a growing movement within evangelicalism that wants to get rid of tithing and encourages people to give as they are able, not some arbitrary standard of 10% regardless of how difficult that might be. It’s a bit of a tangent, I realize.

      • nomad

        “They tithe back into the church.”

        Isn’t that really tithing to themselves, since they are the ones who decides how the money gets spent and how much to pay themselves out of these “church” funds? The buck stops on the preacher’s desk, so to speak. Hence the mansions and airplanes for “church” use.

        • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

          Well, not really, at least not in most cases. Most churches (and most 501 c 3′s for that matter) have some type of board of trustees which decides how the money is spent. So the pastor isn’t just deciding unilaterally (in most cases) where money goes, and how it is spent, especially with respect to his own salary.

          Furthermore, most pastors’ salaries, i.e., almost any church that’s affiliated with a denomination, are disclosed to the congregation annually via some type of annual business meeting, and in many congregations, that salary has to be approved on by a vote of the members.

          The buck stops on the preacher’s desk, so to speak. Hence the mansions and airplanes for “church” use.

          That does happen, to be sure, and Creflo would be a case in point example. However, that situation is the exception, not the rule.

          • JonJon

            From what I understand about pastoral tithing, brgulker is right on the money here. Additionally, I have known pastors who tithe to organizations outside of their own church.

  • Roger

    One day, I passed by a church office and I pondered the cars in the parking lot and wondered, “What, exactly, are the parishioners of this church actually paying for?” I mean, they give their money to this church, and their money pays for a pastor, a secretary (or two or three), maintenance of a church building and such…but really, what actual service are they receiving that they couldn’t get on their own? Random babblings about Bronze Age stories? Hell, any Tom, Dick, or Martha could do that. Receiving tasteless bread and grape juice/wine? A trip to the Kroger takes care of that in a jiffy.

    • Baconsbud

      Like you I always wonder that myself. How much of the money that is given to a church used to pay to make the church bigger and better then the other churches, how much actually goes to the needy, and how much is wasted by the church on things not needed?

      • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

        how much actually goes to the needy, and how much is wasted by the church on things not needed?

        Obviously, that varies from church to church. But, that’s one of the things my wife and I took very seriously when we relocated and obviously picked a new church. We attend a church that has a food pantry, offers free counseling services (where the counselors are actually trained by professionals, learn how to make referrals for depression, etc.,) and offers subsidized financial counseling.

        “Wasted” is a bit of a subjective term, as I would think most folks of atheist persuasion would think it’s all a waste, but someone like me would not. For example, the church I attend has several pastors on staff, one for music, two for teaching/leading studies, and a handful of part-time administrative staff. If one thinks that religion is a bunch of hogwash, I would suspect that just about the only conclusion one could come to is that all that is “waste.”

        • nomad

          The waste, the question of what the church does with the money is the “back end” of the problem. At the front end is the exploitation of , especially, poor people who are cajoled into giving 10% of their income to the church. People who can’t even pay their living expenses. I have only heard one preacher who did not insist on the practice of tithing. And he was “wacko”. I mean “very eccentric”.

          • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

            nomad, I don’t know what pastors you do hear, and I certainly don’t mean to say your experience is wrong. In fact, I think you’re right in that, most evangelical churches anyway, do preach that tithing is the minimum. More mainstream denominations, such as Presbyterians and Reformed churches (and perhaps United Methodist Churches) do NOT teach tithing as a hard and fast rule. That’s not to say they don’t ask for money; any member-driven, voluntary-to-join organization is going to ask for money of its members. That’s just the way it is.

            especially, poor people who are cajoled into giving 10% of their income to the church

            That’s definitely a problem in the prosperity gospel movement (which is what dominates the radio and airwaves). If that’s the preaching you’re exposed to, then that’s exactly what you will find.

            There’s an up and coming preacher (so to speak) in the evangelical world named Mark Driscoll who tells people who are struggling financially NOT to tithe if it will prohibit them from paying their bills and putting money into savings.

            • Siberia

              True that. I felt the difference in the Baptist and Presbyterian churches I went (and still go – family orders, mreh) to.

              The problem isn’t those; the problem’s the ultra-charismatic, get-rich-quick churches that breed like bunnies, at least over here. Those get a huge following, mostly from people who do not have a lot of money or education – mainly because their leaders are charismatic, speak in an “easy” language (unlike the more educated, professional ministers such as those I saw in Presbyterian church), have a lot of music and whiz-bang… they’re attractive. That’s why the Catholic church’s losing its following. That’s why the dude I mentioned before (the one with the church-funded cinema studio) is rich. They appeal to the masses – unfortunately, the uneducated masses that have even less to give.

        • Siberia

          Well, that’s not waste.
          Embellishing the church with highly expensive artwork, however, *is* wasting money that, we’re told, goes for “god’s work”.

          • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

            As i mentioned to nomad, most Protestant denominations have procedures in place to keep this from happening. The annual budget is required to be disclosed, and it must be approved by the members. There is usually an elected board of trustees, and there are usually some type of quarterly meetings open to members.

            In other words, in most churches, that type of thing won’t just happen; major purchases and financial decisions are made with the approval of the people who are giving the money, i.e., the members themselves.

            The exception, as I noted, is the growing prosperity gospel movement, whose churches are usually unaffiliated with a governing body, so such policies can simply be dismissed by the charismatic leader.

            • Siberia

              Mm, I suppose the main difference of perspective here is that you’re from a mostly Protestant country. I’m from a mostly Catholic country – the Protestant churches breeding like bunnies *aren’t* always the traditional ones (which have no more appeal than Catholic churches) but the gospel ones you mention. What I see here is a majority (in sheer number) of bloodsuckers and a few respectable, denomination-affiliated ones which aren’t as large simply because they don’t have “it”.

    • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

      Roger, if someone answered honestly and did tell you what they received from being a church member, would it affect your opinion of that person or that church? I don’t mean to prejudge or put words in your mouth, but I suspect, given your comments here, that you’ve probably made up your mind about what the person is receiving from being a member, regardless of what they would tell you.

      • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

        Let me be more clear. Based on these comments,

        Random babblings about Bronze Age stories? Hell, any Tom, Dick, or Martha could do that. Receiving tasteless bread and grape juice/wine? A trip to the Kroger takes care of that in a jiffy.

        it’s very obvious what you perceive the services of the church to be, right? And they are obviously worthless or close to it in your mind. So your question is obviously rhetorical (or at least partly), right? Given that the comments I quoted are fairly strong, it’s hard for me to think that an honest answer from a religious person would do anything to change your mind, right?

      • Roger

        I’m not concerned about an individual member or an individual church; I’m talking about churches in general. I’m thinking about solid, practical benefits received from the giving of currency. A member goes and is told something along the lines that their money is “a seed” or “showing faith in God” or what have you (usually buttressed by a cobbling together of random scriptures), so they plunk down a tenth of their income. So a church has a secretary, a pastor, groundskeeper, etc, etc, and they work…but what are they producing?

        • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

          Do you mean, what does the pastor produce? What does a minister of music produce?

          If so, it seems obvious: weekly worship experiences, counseling, pastoral care during times of celebration and grief, etc. Church members’ giving makes those services possible, at the least. There may or may not be social services, such as a food pantry or homeless shelters; that will vary from place to place. But, it seems fairly obvious to me what services are produced by the salary of the minister(s) and administrative staff.

          • Aor

            And which of those things are solid practical benefits?

            • JonJon

              What an odd line of questions.

              You don’t mean to imply that charitable activities are without practical benefit? (I hope…)

              Even if we call a church a purely service industry, it still gives people practical services: weddings in a nice building, funerals in a nice building, an active social calendar that allows for family activities, etc.

              While these sorts of things aren’t available at all churches, and while they might be less valuable for some ‘consumers’ than others, I don’t really think you can say that those aren’t ‘solid practical benefits,’ even if you’d like to maintain that community service activities aren’t beneficial.

            • Aor

              I asked a simple question. If I wanted to answer it, I would have. I wanted brgulker to give an answer, but I will take yours as a start. I like to get believers to take those firm positions before debating them, because they tend to squirm and evade and refuse to concede points.

              If you want to claim weekly worship experiences are solid practical benefits, say so. If you want to claim religious counseling is a solid practical benefit, say so. Understand? That way you take a firm position that can be discussed.

              In the real world, even the impractical can have benefits. Even a charity that donates 1/10 of 1% is having a benefit.. but is it practical? Compared to other charities that give a greater portion, I would have to say that this example would be an impractical way of accomplishing things with donations. That means that the value of the work of any given charity must be compared to some absolute standard.

              Is religious counseling practical? Religious counselors have an incentive to lie. If telling the truth will lead to a person leave the faith, and lying will keep them.. those priests have an incentive to lie. Is that a solid practical benefit when the practitioners have an incentive to lie to benefit their organization regardless of its effect on the person they are counseling? Understand my point? Religious counseling has huge flaws because it can take the interest of the religion as being more important than the interests of the person being counselled. In my book that greatly reduces the value of such counselling.

              If the major solid practical benefits from religion are a nice building to do things in, then how do those benefits stand up to.. oh, lets say a Legion Hall? Do you wonder if maybe the cost to create and maintain a church is greater than the cost to create and maintain the hall of your local Legion or other non-profit organization? That is what practical implies to me… some sense of comparative value per dollar of donation. I’m sure that spending 100 million on a church would provide some awful nice weddings.. but is it practical compared to building 100 legion halls in 100 towns?

              I think most people would agree that providing food and shelter is a practical benefit.. provided, as I mentioned above, that it is done in a cost effective manner. But these other things.. they are certainly open to debate, and in a debate it is nice to get the other side to take a firm position at least once in a while.

            • JonJon

              So… Much… Hostility….

              I am confused about where I didn’t take a firm stand. I am sorry that I didn’t answer the question in a way you were happy with. I shall strive to do better.

              I think that churches often provide solid, practical benefits to the people who donate money to them.

              I think that you perhaps undervalue these services, or value them considerably less than many Christians might.

              I think that because of this disparity in value, you have gotten the idea in your head that your measure of practicality is somehow more ‘real’ than the practicality assigned by those who frequently tithe.

              I think that this disparity in value has also led you to think that there are other, more sinister, forces behind Christians’ commitment to supporting an organization that they feel is important to them.

              I could be wrong about some of these later points, but I feel i’d like to do some pinning down of my own. I’ll let you take a stand on what you’d like.

              “I like to get believers to take those firm positions before debating them, because they tend to squirm and evade and refuse to concede points.” –

              oddly, I find this to be true of every single person I have ever debated anything with. People don’t like to lose. I am sorry that your debate experience lacked this important aspect until you began arguing with ‘believers’.

            • Aor

              That is your attempt to do better? When challenged to make specific points and take a firm position, you just repeat your initial premise and try to psychoanalize me? Try harder, because that is just silly.

              I never said anything about sinister forces… no idea what you are talking about. Assuming you are being honest, you are mistaken. If you have some quote of mine to base that on, bring it. If you don’t, I’ll have to assume that was an inept straw man.. a common tactic, but not something that gets missed often. Non-believers don’t see sinister forces at work as much as believers do, so perhaps that is your overactive imagination at work. Or perhaps it is a defense mechanism.

              I noticed that you have no response to my point about religious counsellors having incentive to lie. Was that on purpose, or accidental? You see, in my experience when you ask a believer tough questions they get evasive. A point like the one I made tends to get under their skin, but.. they can’t deal with it. The point is so simple and clear that all they can do is pretend it wasn’t said. Like you did. If you disagree with that point, explain how and why. If you cannot justify why you disagree, you may have to concede the point.

              Until you get much more clear about what you are claiming the solid and practical benefits of religious donations are, there is nothing to discuss. I understand that you want to shift the responsibility to me, which is another typical tactic from believers.. but it won’t work. You see, I already took one… and you carefully ignored it. Exactly what I expected, by the way. When a believer avoids a point, it shows they are afraid of that point. You have shown that you are unwilling to discuss the incentive to lie within the priesthood in order to maintain a following. It is a simple point, based on behavior that people see regularly in their lives… its damn hard to refute, in other words. I think that is why you ignore it… because you have no honest response that anyone would believe.

              PS. I asked questions of you on other threads, and you didn’t reply to those either. Does that mean I scored a hit and scared you off from those discussions?

            • JonJon

              Sigh.

              If the game is now that I have to address every single point you make, in an itemized list, I’d prefer to not play.

              “I noticed that you have no response to my point about religious counsellors having incentive to lie.”

              That might be because you were not addressing a point I actually made, Aor. Since I said nothing at all about counseling, I figured this was an attempt on your part to evade or change the subject. If you demand an opinion on it, I think religious counseling is significantly cheaper than its (admittedly licensed) outside counterparts. If commonsense counseling at bargain basement prices is what you’re after, I’m not sure you can do much better. I’d obviously recommend that those with more severe issues be encouraged to see a practicing psychiatrist, but there are certain kinds of counseling, marital in particular, which are perfectly acceptable to perform ‘in house.’

              This is in no way an endorsement of your notion that ‘practical’ means ‘economical.’ I regard this, as I have mentioned, to be a silly way to judge practicality.

              the conversation to date:

              aor: do you get solid practical benefits by giving money to a church?

              jonjon: you get several solid practical benefits: like a nice building, or a family-friendly calendar of events. to say that those aren’t benefits is silly.

              aor: don’t evade my question. practicality means cost-effectiveness. if you think services like buildings and religious counseling are cost effective, then say so.

              jonjon: i feel like you’re being needlessly hostile, and i think your definition of practicality is wrong.

              aor: there you go evading again

              I think I’ve summed that up pretty accurately. its more for my sake than yours. I hate scrolling up that far.

              PS. I honestly wish I could answer every question directed at me, but tbh, I don’t have the time or inclination to do so. I try to pick questions which offer the best chance for a discussion that doesn’t get too sidetracked by side issues. I suppose that is ‘evading’ in a sense, but I simply don’t have the desire to get embroiled in a massive debate on every single comment I post.

            • Aor

              You can always take your ball and go home.

              Or you could hush up, right?

            • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

              And which of those things are solid practical benefits?

              To you, they would be of no benefit, because of your worldview and perspective on religion.

              To me, a religious person, those services are of very concrete, practical benefit. Hearing a sermon that motivates me to love others more completely, having my wedding ceremony performed by an ordained minister who gave a wonderful homily, attending the ceremonies of others, attending funerals where hope for the resurrection is proclaimed — all of those things are practical benefits to a person of faith.

              Whereas to you, all of that is unpractical because it’s meaningless.

            • Aor

              So by that reasoning, a crazy homeless preacher standing on a chair in a back alley is providing solid practical benefits to anyone near him who believes. A palm reader, provided they honestly believe their readings, is providing a solid and practical benefit to the people they are predicting a dark and handsome stranger will fall in love with. The exorcist who comes to a house to push the poltergeist out of the kitchen is providing a solid practical benefit to the person with the haunted house.

              I just don’t find those things to be solid in any way. Their practicality may be open to debate, but their solidity.. not so much.

              Quoting Roger:

              I’m not concerned about an individual member or an individual church; I’m talking about churches in general. I’m thinking about solid, practical benefits received from the giving of currency.

              If a wandering monk in Asia is given a few coins, spends it on food for himself and then spins a few bronze cylinders… where is the solid practical benefit? I’m sure those who believe feel they get some emotional or spiritual benefit, but is that solid? They lose money, feed someone who is essentially a parasite on their society, and get in return.. a few spins on a cylinder. What services does that monk produce?
              To you, all of that is unpractical because it is meaningless.

              To you, a religious person, only those services provided to you by your sect of your religion are of concrete practical benefit. All others are just money wasted. That is why the general question of religions as a whole is so important.

            • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

              To you, a religious person, only those services provided to you by your sect of your religion are of concrete practical benefit. All others are just money wasted

              Where have I ever explicitly suggested or even intimated that sentiment?

              You’re pigeon-holing me again, prejudging me based on past experiences and stereotypes.

              I’ve said this to you before: if you’re going to simply prejudge me based on your ignorant stereotypes, I’m not going to converse with you. I base my comments to you directly on what you say here. I would appreciate that same type of generosity.

            • Aor

              I was paraphrasing you, brgulker.

              To me, a religious person, those services are of very concrete, practical benefit.

              Whereas to you, all of that is unpractical because it’s meaningless.

              You’re pigeon-holing me again, prejudging me based on past experiences and stereotypes.

              Turnabout is fair play. You cannot have it both ways. Either you get to speak that way about me and I get to speak that way about you, or you are a hypocrite for doing it and insisting that I cannot. What I see from you looks like another attempt to get out of the conversation when you find yourself in a tough spot. More self serving hypocrisy, like you have repeatedly gone for in our other conversations. If you are unable to deal with the points I raise then you are better off not speaking to me, absolutely. It is dishonest to use those kinds of excuses, but your goal of not having to face the inherent problems in your belief system is completely understandable.

              I base my comments to you directly on what you say here. I would appreciate that same type of generosity.

              More of your self serving attemps to make rules. You don’t get that right, nobody does. And you sure don’t live by that rule, do you? Does that mean I get to call you both a liar and a hypocrite, because I have caught you lying and being hypocritical in one single sentence?

              By the way, pre-judging you by past experience seems quite contradictory. It may be judging you by past experience, but it cannot be pre-judging by past experience. If you really believe that all conversations exist in a vacuum and all past experiences with a person must be ignored each and every time a new subject arises then you are living in a fantasy world. I can absolutely guarantee that you do not drop all of our past conversations when you enter a new one with me, so really, really… stop the hypocrisy. Its so damn obvious, you know?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    This sort of thing needs to be kept in mind when someone produces a poll stating that the religious are more charitable than nonbelievers. Someone needs to ask: are they really doing more good? How much of their money is going to finance the flagrant lifestyles of televangelists? Hos much of it is funding witch-hunting in Africa? etc.

    • cello

      Bingo.

    • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

      are they really doing more good?

      Well, the poll would also have to define “good,” right?

      I think you raise a very good point, though. A lot of money that Christians give to ‘charity’ is more about self-preservation than actually offering services to the disadvantaged (which is one of the reasons I opted for AmeriCorps instead of church work, but that’s another story).

  • Offred

    It has bugged me for years that churches/ religious organizations pay no taxes, does anyone know why that is?

    I know of 3 groups locally who own lakefront property in a National lakeshore & of course there are very nice homes on these properties available for “certain” church members use.

    • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

      Tax law?

    • rodneyAnonymous

      Ostensibly, it’s separation of church and state: power to tax equals power to influence. LATimes point/counterpoint (both sides Christian, but for and against churches’ tax exemption): http://www.latimes.com/features/religion/la-oew-lynn-stanley23-2008sep23,0,2226105.story

      • Baconsbud

        I would like to see a change in those laws and think that if more then 50% of the money coming in doesn’t go to help people it shouldn’t be a charity.

        • rodneyAnonymous

          Oh yeah I agree that it’s stupid and they should lose tax exemption. One reason among many, it creates a different opportunity for influence: the gov’t chooses which views get exemption and which do not, another kind of endorsement.

        • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

          Baconspud:

          The 50% amount is, in my view, going to be almost impossible for most non-profits, not just churches. The cost of operating a non-profit, take a mentoring organization for example since that’s what I’m working with right now, simply couldn’t function if it were required to give 50% of donations away, free and clear. There are operating costs to running a non-profit. There is rent, salaries for staff, health insurance for staff, and on down the line.

          Requiring 50% arbitrarily would shut down most non-profits, across the board.

          • Baconsbud

            I think you are wrong about this and if you go here you will see why. http://www.charitywatch.org/criteria.html I think the ones it would close down are the ones that do the least.

            • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

              I don’t see anything with respect to staff time there, Baconspud. Am I just missing it?

              If staff time is included in that 50%, then I think I just misunderstood what you meant before.

              For example, a big, big chunk of a mentoring program’s budget is spent on hiring case workers to support matches. If those salaries are considered part of the 50%, then it may not be a problem.

              However, when I read your comment, I was assuming that such money would not be considered part of the 50%. In other words, I read your comment to mean that charities should simply give away 50% of what comes into them, and I don’t think that’s very realistic.

            • Baconsbud

              This is the portion of total expenses that is spent on charitable programs. In AIP’s view, 60% or greater is reasonable for most charities. The remaining percentage is spent on fundraising and general administration. Note: A 60% program percentage typically
              indicates a “satisfactory” or “C range” rating. Most highly efficient charities are able to spend 75% or more on programs.

              I understand that general administration would cover salaries. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/sga.asp I know this is for a profit business but figure the non-profit run similar type accounting.

            • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

              Okay, then we’re mostly on the same page. I misunderstood your very first comment, which is why I disagreed. The disagreement seems to be moot.

            • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

              I see Big Brothers Big Sisters on that list, so I think it’s safe to assume that employee salary must be included?

    • Siberia

      In my country the excuse is religion freedom: smaller cults or religions should be encouraged and thus, be in similar competing ground (from the gov’t POV) to the bigger religions.
      Which is why anyone can open a backyard church and get rich.

  • Brian

    This was in The Star (Toronto Newspaper) two years ago. Filthy rich pastors, yachts, summer houses in Florida, etc.

    http://www.thestar.com/News/article/187986

    They are still in business stealing people’s money under the same stupid delusion. Even the name of the church is disgusting “the prayer palace church”

  • digsclarity

    Can anyone remember thumbing through the yellow pages and seeing where certain so called Christian advertisers had the “fish” icon displayed on their ads? When I first saw this practice, I was a young skeptical Catholic and I remember thinking it was weird. An icon somehow denotes trustworthiness? When the carpet cleaner gets to your house do you have to confirm he is a Christian before he performs the work? Could a Jewish plumber use the icon to snag some new business?

    • Heidi

      I just saw one the other day when I was looking for an emergency plumber. I figured he probably practiced Faith Plumbing, so I called somebody else.

  • http://leavingreligion.com LeavingReligion

    I knew a guy in our church who lost his entire business and life savings due to trusting another ‘Christian’ to help him run his business as he attempted to go into semi-retirement. Wonder what God’s lesson was there. I’m amazed at the number of Christians who do not do due diligence on potential business partners just because they say they are Christians.

  • http://godlessblogger.com Jake Collyer

    Reminds me of a conversation I had with a Christian once. Logic doesn’t make sense to them because they believe in it. No proof necessary just their belief is enough. Too bad end of story. Its ridiculous to believe that a certain religion will make everyone a better person.


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